On 11 June 2013, Google announced that it would be taking a tough stance on which websites it ranked in smartphone search results. Essentially, this change means that if you don’t have a mobile optimised website you will find it difficult to increase your rankings in the future on one of the fastest growing search platforms – mobile devices.
There are two ways to get a mobile optimised website and each has its own merits. Responsive designs (such as the design of my site) essentially displays the same content but arranges it differently according to the size of the screen of the user – this is Google’s recommended configuration. Standalone mobile sites are the other option and are essentially mini sites built purely for mobile devices. These sites allow you to write content specifically for the mobile user and allow split testing of mobile users in isolation to improve conversion rates. Of course this comes with the added workload of maintaining two separate websites however.
Once you have a mobile optimised site in place, Goole have released a few additional factors to check which may influence your mobile rankings:
- Unplayable Videos – Certain video formats such as Flash are unplayable on some smartphones. If a mobile site has unplayable content or is built purely in Flash then Google will not display the site in mobile rankings for users searching from their smartphone. Using Google’s own video platform, YouTube and then embedding videos onto your website is the best way to correct this issue.
- Redirection Errors – If you are using a standalone site it is important that mobile redirection is used correctly. This means that each desktop web page should redirect to the equivalent mobile web page as opposed to sending all mobile traffic to the mobile homepage. If your content/web page is not available on the mobile optimised site it is better to show them the desktop version than to redirect them to the mobile homepage.
- Speed – If your mobile optimised site loads slowly on mobile phones which are usually on slower internet connections than desktop then Google is unlikely to rank your mobile site.
- Other Errors – such as Googlebot-Mobile errors, 404 errors on mobile devices, incorrect canonical tagging and incorrect mobile redirection scripts.
Ensuring that your website is optimised for mobile devices to avoid the issues mentioned above will help you maintain and improve the SEO traffic you get from Google’s smartphone users. Having a mobile optimised site will also improve conversion rates from these users leading to more traffic and increased conversions. With over 35% of search queries now performed on a mobile device, ensuring your site is optimised correctly is a great way to increase your ROI and is something you should be acting on now.